Cupcakes in a jar, hot dog sliders for the Fourth

Published 7:45 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2023

By Kara Kimbrough

What’s not to love about the Fourth of July? It’s filled with patriotism, picnics, fireworks, family gatherings, watermelon, barbecues, homemade ice cream and much more. And there’s only one color scheme: red, white and blue. It’s the perfect low maintenance holiday.

Think about it. Christmas is all over the place with its dizzying array of multi-colored themes and endless food choices.

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Thanksgiving is all about the turkey and getting the dressing “just right.” But July 4th can – and should be – simple. As long as there’s a flag flying somewhere on the premises and an assortment of grilled meats and appropriate sides are on the table, it’s the epitome of no fuss/no muss.

I’ll admit I haven’t always adhered to the “simplicity is best” rule when planning my next patriotic themed tablescape or dessert. I’ve created centerpieces of gigantic Mason jars filled with sand from the Gulf of Mexico (Gulfport and Destin beaches) to hold American flags and pinwheels; miniature Mason jars containing cupcake slices, whipped cream and berries; last year’s burger bar on a 2×4 plank and of course, my annual simple-but-elegant flag cake.

This year’s Fourth of July meal will center around two racks of barbecued ribs grilled and sold by a local fire department. Proceeds will fund a scholarship for a firefighter who was also my friend. He was recently killed while crossing a
busy highway to assist a wreck victim. If you’d like to know more about the fund, drop me an email and I’ll fil you in on this worthy cause.

Other Fourth food will include grilled burgers with all the trimmings, baked beans, some type of cold side – either Cole slaw, potato or pasta salad- and an appetizer to stave off hunger pains while the burgers are grilling. Sliders are not what I’d call fancy or even new in most circles. But I’d never thought of placing cocktail sausages inside the top of slider buns, followed by toppings of my favorite chopped vegetables and sauces. I did a test run and can attest, they’re as delicious as they are cute.

Back by popular demand, I’m including the recipe for Patriotic Cupcakes in a Jar. Like charcuterie boards, the trend of using Mason jars as vessels for all manner of foods doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Guests can take their jar home as a souvenir of Fourth of July ’23, especially if you take the time to write their name on the jar in gold or silver ink and tie a patriotic ribbon around the rim.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Fourth of July Mini Dog Sliders
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mild or medium salsa
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
24 Cocktail Smokies
12 King’s Hawaiian slider rolls
Feta cheese
Pickle relish
Other favorite toppings

Combine sour cream and salsa in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until melted. Add the Cocktail Smokies and cook until heated through, stirring, about 5-6 minutes. Slice vertically through each slider bun, about halfway through so it resembles a top-split hot dog bun, and place two Smokies lengthwise in each. Top with sauce, feta cheese and relish. Can also add other favorite toppings like mustard, chopped onions, etc.

Patriotic Cupcakes in a Jar
For the cupcakes:
1 box of your favorite cake flavor- I used Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme (you can make them from scratch, but because the cakes soak up icing and juice from the berries, the cakes are very moist)
Makes 24-30 medium cupcakes
Assortment of berries: sliced strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
For the cream cheese frosting:
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups sifted powdered sugar

Prepare cupcake batter according to package directions. Spray cupcake tins with cooking spray and fill each indention 1⁄2
full with the batter. Bake according to directions, then once they are cool, slice each cupcake in half lengthwise (not from the top). When finished, you will have a stack of tops and a stack of bottoms. Place one cupcake bottom in a jar, then add icing to a piping bag or Ziploc bag with the tip cut off and add a layer of icing over the bottom cupcake. Add a sprinkle of berries to the icing, then place on top of the cupcake on the layer of frosting and berries. Gently flatten the top part of the cupcake inside the jar and top with another layer of icing. If there’s room, add a few more berries to the top. Cover with lids and decorate with stickers, ribbon or whatever you’d like.

Supplies you will need:
A dozen or more 8-ounce glass jars with lids and rings
Pastry bag and decorative tips or large Ziploc bag
Round stickers (many websites have downloadable links to jar stickers; you can also use large white address labels and cut then into circles, then decorate)

Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at